Thursday, 30 April 2015

So Fetch Friday: A Post-Zombie Apocalypse

It's been a difficult week. My first week where I haven't had to worry about exams and it's tricky adjusting. I haven't had much room for writing. Every time I get ideas I'm in some situation where I can't write. When I finally get the chance to sit down and write, it starts to hurt. Makes it hard to work on scripts and short stories. I get ideas but have trouble organizing them. I wouldn't mind getting back into science fiction at some point. It's occurred to me that Saturn would be a really good setting for a science fiction story. The planet alone lends itself to some powerful descriptions, the only trouble is what kind of story could I put it into. I've already done a story with Venus, and another with the moon. I've also touched on Mars before. That still leaves Mercury and the four Jovian worlds. I should find something to do with those.

I finally managed to see Frozen. This was an unusual choice for me but everybody's been talking about it and I found it available through HBO on Demand so I figured why not see what all the fuss is about. I'm going to be honest here... I actually kinda enjoyed it. It's not your typical Disney fairy tale, which I would say is a good thing. In fact if anything Frozen spends a lot of time poking fun at all the absurdly common characteristics of fairy tales. My favorite would have to be how it deconstructed the classic cliché of love at first sight. I was pleasantly surprised when Elsa actually points out how foolish it was for Anna to literally be engaged to someone she just met, and it also helps that it demonstrated precisely why that isn't always such a good thing. Of course, that said, I'm still not sure I understand why the song Let it Go became such a huge hit compared to the numerous other songs in the film.

One thing that I somewhat foolishly did was buy a ticket to see The Age of Adaline. It sounded like an interesting premise and I really wanted to like it. Unfortunately, I couldn't get into it. There was a great idea for a premise but not much else. You'd be better off with a film like Orlando, a film which explores a similar idea (a woman who is unable to age and has to live through different time periods) far more effectively. The Age of Adaline started promising, with just the introduction of the titular character being compelling and setting her up as a strong lead, but then it seemed to go the route of Fifty Shades of Gray as soon as Ellis appeared.

Okay, maybe it's not as bad as 50 Shades of Gray, but the film tried to build Ellis up as a perfect romantic partner for Adaline except, to me at least, he ended up coming off more as a stalker. After all his first meeting with her is literally forcing his way into the elevator she's standing in to talk to her and then finding every excuse he can not to stop following her out of the building. He then goes on to track Adaline to her workplace and presses her into going on a date with him. He even goes behind Adaline's back to get her address and show up at her house. I think after that Adaline was right to walk away from him, but no, her daughter has to convince her that this guy is a "good man". I found nothing likable in this character, the first time I saw him I was pretty much hoping this wasn't the love interest. First Fifty Shades of Gray and now this. Why are we getting so many movies that try to depict a horrible person as the ideal romantic partner? If this was made in the 1950's maybe it would be somewhat understandable but shouldn't people already know better by 2015?

The other thing about The Age of Adaline: what was Harrison Ford doing in this movie? I get that money probably had a hand in his agreeing to working on The Age of Adaline and I'd imagine he was paid well for it, but was he really the filmmakers' best choice for the role? His character didn't really strike me as someone who should be played by a guy like Harrison Ford. I can understand him not wanting to be typecast as action heroes but he just really didn't seem to fit this character for some reason. Maybe it's just bad writing but he honestly felt out of place, and I feel like there should have been someone else cast here instead. In any case, I eventually found I just couldn't take The Age of Adaline anymore and ended up walking out in the middle of it.

I finally got to see the season finale of The Walking Dead. It was intense, and to be honest I sometimes wonder how much more of that show I'll be able to take. On the bright side, at least it ended on an optimistic note, or at least as optimistic as you can get on a show like this. Alexandria didn't get destroyed, which I guess is a good thing, and it looks like Deanna is finally starting to understand the severity of the situation. Some reconciliation is in order. The trouble with shows like this is that the bleak endings start to become predictable after a while. Every time some little glimmer of hope for humanity pops up, you know something is going to happen. When Eugene first showed up and we were told he had the cure I thought for sure something was off, since the show would never go the route of ending the zombie apocalypse.

The sad thing is I actually think that could have been an interesting twist on the zombie phenomenon. Maybe if I can ever get my touch for horror back, I could try writing a story based on the concept of a post-zombie apocalypse. The idea would be that it would begin just at the end of a zombie apocalypse, and with the characters successfully finding a cure or some other way of getting rid of the zombies. The twist would be that by this point society has broken down so much getting rid of the zombies doesn't make all that much of a difference. The heroes might no longer be in any immediate danger of being devoured by malevolent reanimated cadavers, but there would still be the far greater threat posed by other survivors.

On Game of Thrones we got some odd developments. Arya Stark is now living in the House of Black and White trying to become "nobody". Apparently this involves casting away every trace of her former identity (though she couldn't bring herself to lose Needle). It was weird seeing her suddenly in a dress. I'm also still not sure what is going to happen because I understood she was supposed to be going to the wall and now she's in this place instead. Meanwhile Sansa Stark has found herself locked into an engagement with Ramsay Snow, and just barely missed a reunion with Theon Greyjoy. On the other hand, there does seem to be a few peculiar components to Greyjoy's attitude. He seems to be listening in a lot more on conversations. Perhaps he is starting to break free of Ramsay's control?

 Tyrion finally got out of that "wheelhouse" and tried to find a sexual encounter, only to be surprised when he couldn't get pleasure in it. We've also encountered a familiar face that we haven't seen in a while: Jorah Mormont's back, if perhaps not in the most ideal way. We haven't seen this guy since part way into season 4, when Daenerys banished him after finding out he started serving her as a spy (in her defense, it would have been hard to confirm that Jorah had indeed changed sides and joined with her since then). Considering his whereabouts it looks like he didn't collect that pardon after all, and he kidnapped Tyrion. He told him that he was going to take him "to see the queen". The big question is which queen he is referring to? Daenerys seems like a logical choice, perhaps Jorah is hoping to bring Tyrion to her to regain her favor. However, I suppose it's possible that he is actually talking about Cersei Lannister (who did offer a price for anyone who successfully delivered him to her).

Meanwhile, things have gotten heated on Hannibal. Will Graham has started going through therapy with Hannibal again, but it doesn't seem to be so simple. In fact, for a while it almost seemed as though Will was himself starting to become a psychopath, who delightfully ate human flesh with his psychiatrist. He even went as far as to murder and then eat local ace reporter Freddie Lounds... except he didn't. It turns out Freddie's murder was staged (and done so well that it even had Alana Bloom convinced), and evidently someone else's corpse was used in her place. Will is actually trying to get evidence against Hannibal by acting as his patient, and so far has not been successful. Still, it looks like there might be a chance of getting Hannibal convicted, except of course from what I remember of Silence of the Lambs being incarcerated may have reduced his meals of human meat but did very little to end his status as a psychological threat.

The other thing that happened was I got to experience being on a real film set, or at least as real as one can get when working with practically no budget. I've mentioned this project before. It's a 10-15 minute short film currently titled Dead Inside, originating from a short script I wrote originally under the working title of Moving On. It's a strange surrealist film I wrote for a class about two years ago which combined the feelings of my disastrous college experience with watching a few too many David Lynch films. There's even a character who borrows heavily from the "Mystery Man" depicted in Lost Highway (though she appears to be a more benevolent figure), and we looked at the party scene from that film for inspiration.

I was getting a chance to work with experienced professionals who actually had some idea of what the were doing and I often found myself wishing I'd known people like these back when we were making movies in high school, where often I was the only person who had even the faintest idea of what I was doing (quite a few people didn't understand that there were other positions in filmmaking besides acting and directing, and everyone always wanted to be actors so I'd have to do everything else myself). I remember when we did that b-movie in my high Grade 12 film class and nobody listened to my advice on how we could actually make it good.

For this production, we had a three-day schedule, the film being shot over the weekend. There were some disagreements on precisely how to execute each scene, but we worked through them okay. I can't give out names just yet, but the actress we got to play the lead was really good, and very much what I'd envisioned for the part when I first wrote the script. We got along really well. Her co-star was also really good, and I got to spend some time helping her get into character, even in putting together her costume (she even changed part of it from the director's intentions to fit better with my original script). We had some interesting discussions as well about writing.

My role in this production was mainly as a consultant. I left the specific technical choices to the professionals, but offered advice on how each scene should play out and the general tone. I also had some advice in terms of costuming but ultimately it was up to our costuming expert to get that done. She was also very good at what she did. I was present for the shooting of all but one scene, and that was only due to timing and the specifics of it: it was to be shot at 10:00 PM and inside a car, I figured I'd be getting in the way. I also got to play an extra in several scenes, perhaps when the film comes out you can try and spot me the same way 1950's audiences always tried to spot Alfred Hitchcock's cameo when watching his movies. Admittedly it was stressful, mainly due to the long hours and uncertain duration of shooting, but at the same time it was really exciting.

So there's been a few things going on this week. I'm also hoping to get back into making some LEGO animated films at some point, but first there's a whole bunch of software problems to be resolved. Hopefully that will all get worked out okay, and maybe one of these days I'll even be able to do some more writing, which has proven to be very difficult.

Stuff from Other Bloggers

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Thursday Movie Picks Meme: Father-Daughter Relationships

This week, the theme for Wanderer's Thursday Movie Picks Meme is father-daughter relationships, with the catch that they have to be biologically related. If you haven't taken part in her activity yet, it's simple: each week there is a new theme. You have to compile a list of three movies that fit that theme. Now there are plenty of films that could fit the description of centering on the relationship between a father and daughter, along with plenty that don't. Still, it was hard to decide, so I've decided to find three unlikely choices that would be the last thing anyone would expect which have some element of the father-daughter relationship, if one handled unconventionally.

Contact (1997)

Yes, Robert Zemeckis's adaptation of Carl Sagan's hard science fiction novel is in large part about the social and political consequences of making contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life, but a major theme of the film involves the backstory behind its protagonist, Eleanor "Ellie" Arroway (Jodie Foster). The relationship between Ellie and her father is crucial to the story, at it is a significant motivation for her joining SETI in the first place. They also play on this relationship during the climax, when Ellie is approached by an alien taking on the appearance of her father in a computer simulation.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)

When you think Tomb Raider, you don't normally expect to deal with family issues, but that is actually a big part Lara's character. In the context of this film specifically, Lara has to deal with the unexplained disappearance of her father. She eventually has to go on to follow in his footsteps in order to prevent the villains from taking advantage of a powerful artifact, and even gets to track down the man responsible for his murder.

Interstellar (2014)

Yes, it is a story about humanity's struggle to survive on a dying Earth, but let's face it: the core of the film is the relationship between Cooper and Murph. This is also a rather curious one as far as far as father-daughter relationships go, due to the circumstances that interfere with their interactions. After all, it's hard for a father and daughter to stay close when they are literally seperated by lightyears and have to deal with extensive time dilations to communicate and the father suddenly sees his own daughter at his age despite barely aging himself. It's like a father-daughter version of the classic "Twin Paradox" often discussed in astronomy.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Love is a Killer

Every director has his or her own unique style. This is where the whole concept of auteur theory, first pioneered by French critics such as Francois Truffaut and, somewhat unfortunately, Jean-Luc Godard, originates. While it is debatable whether the director should in fact be considered the "author" of a film (one could make a good case for why that label should instead go to the screenwriter), there are patterns to be observed among a director's work. No two directors are the same (though often they may influence each other), and once you know their style it becomes easy to recognize.

In the case of these early critics, they learned to see patterns in the films of Hollywood directors like John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Alfred Hitchcock. Today, anyone well versed in their films could easily distinguish a John Carpenter film from a movie by David Lynch or Quentin Tarantino. What those patterns are will vary. It may be in terms of the content of their films, such as Tarantino's use of gore. It could be in the environment such as Carpenter's love for claustrophobic environments. It could be in terms of narrative, such as Tarantino's trademark of non-linear storytelling. It could be in terms of themes, such as Lynch's habit of making films about seemingly ideal communities that turn out to have a hidden darker side. It might even be as simple as the director having certain actors they routinely cast, such as Tarantino and Harvey Keitel or Lynch and Laura Dern.

However, for every director, their style has to develop. For this reason, it is often interesting to look back at their earlier films and compare it to their later work. In some cases it is more obvious than others. Reservoir Dogs is more clearly a Tarantino film than Dark Star is a Carpenter film. Still, there is one director who has eluded such easy categorization: Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick was such as versatile director that his style is almost impossible to clearly define. He had ideas that occasionally popped up, certain forms of iconography that would become trademarks, such as the use of long and narrow spaces and the famous "Kubrick stare". However, this does not start to appear until fairly late in his career.

Killer's Kiss was Kubrick's second feature film. Prior to this one, Kubrick's only feature film had been the independently-produced Fear and Desire (a film he would later try to disown to the point where it would not see a legal DVD release until over a decade after his death). Killer's Kiss is a bit more straight forward compared to Fear and Desire, and was made with better production values. It might not be Kubrick's strongest film, but it was the movie responsible for bringing him into the mainstream and launch a directorial career that would last for 44 years.

Davy Gordon (Jamie Smith) is a washed-up boxer trying to figure out what he wants to do with himself. He still takes parts in fights from time to time (leading to what would have been a very daring fight scene for the era). He is thinking about going home to see his parents on their ranch, but then he hears his neighbor Gloria Price (Irene Kane) screaming after an encounter with her boss Vincent Raphello (Frank Silvera), who is basically committing sexual harassment (at a time when that sort of behavior was easier to get away with). Davy finds himself sympathizing with Gloria, who has had a difficult life, and decides to help after quickly falling in love. However, Vincent does not take kindly to this development, and tries to pull them apart, even going as far as to frame Davy for murder.

It is definitely hard to spot any of Kubrick's early trademarks here. It certainly does not look like a film by the man who would go on to direct films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Barry Lyndon, and Eyes Wide Shut. There isn't much of the narrow corridors, the bathroom scenes, or even the famed "Kubrick Stare" that would become associated with his later films. There is, however, one thing about Killer's Kiss that does resemble Kubrick's other films, if a very general aspect: it demonstrates his constant refusal to conform to standard filmmaking practices. In that sense, this film is actually quite impressive.

Fear and Desire was first released in 1953, with Killer's Kiss following two years later. At the time Kubrick was getting started, the Hollywood Studio System was still in full effect. It would not be for much longer; the Production Code had already been relaxed with America's entry World War II and a series of legal cases over the following years would bring it to an end, but when Killer's Kiss first premiered the rules were still in place. Hollywood had very specific rules about how to structure a film, this being the "Classical Model" that is still dominant today (story comes first). The Motion Picture Production Code might not have been as strictly enforced as it was during 1934, but there were still rules about what could and could not be depicted. There was more lenience towards violence, but not so much regarding sex.

Kubrick was never the kind of man who liked to stick to rules. While he would have had to work within the rules of Hollywood filmmaking, he also liked to take chances. Beginning in the 1960's, there was more room for him to do his own thing, but in the 1950's, he had to follow the rules. Killer's Kiss can certainly be considered a classical film, but for 1953 it would have actually been quite daring. The one scene in which Davy is shown boxing is very intense for the era in which it was made (and it wouldn't be far-fetched to assume Martin Scorsese took some inspiration from it in Raging Bull). There is also the fact that the plot is basically about a female dancer being sexually harassed by her boss (even if the words "sexual harassment" are never used), at a time when sex of any kind was forbidden (the Production Code included a long list about how filmmakers were not allowed to address "illicit sex"). The fact that said boss is cast as the villain because of his actions could also be seen as fairly progressive for the era. Then there are other odd stylistic choices, such as juxtaposing shots of a ballet performance over Gloria's narration of her troubled childhood, which seem peculiar but simultaneously make it interesting.

Perhaps the most daring element is the climactic fight scene between Davy and Vincent, which happens in a mannequin warehouse. The warehouse in question is filled with nude mannequins; many of them women with exposed breasts. Kubrick would later go on to show plenty of living nude women (perhaps most notably in A Clockwork Orange and Eyes Wide Shut), but nudity was frowned upon even before the Production Code was in place. Most of the "controversial" films it aimed to suppress only hinted at sex through innuendos. The Production Code itself even states that "Complete nudity is never permitted. This includes nudity in fact or in silhouette, or any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture." Despite all this, Kubrick was able to shoot a scene in a room where the characters are literally surrounded by fully-naked (if artificial and unmoving) bodies. This was an extremely daring move that could have easily gone wrong, and the fact that Kubrick even had the nerve to consider it is admirable.

Ultimately, Killer's Kiss isn't Kubrick's greatest achievement, but it is still worth seeing. As an introduction to Kubrick, it works, as it shows just how creative he could get and how he never wanted to let anything interfere with his vision. The story might be simple compared to his later work, but it is impressive just for how daring it would have been during the 1950's. The fact that Kubrick had the nerve to take as many chances as he did is admirable.

Friday, 24 April 2015

White Swan/Black Swan Blogathon

I've been hearing a lot about this blogathon hosted by Lady Sati over at Cinematic Corner. The idea is straight forward enough, it's about examining duality within a specific character. The title of course refers to this element in the Oscar-winning film Black Swan. This was a tricky one to come up with material for but I think I've finally found a good choice: Evelyn Salt from Salt. This is also a strange example as it involves potentially three sides: white swan, black swan, and grey swan. Technically, the colour of a swan really doesn't indicate it's allegiance. White swans look graceful from a distance but up close they can get pretty vicious, but that's beside the point. Here is what I have found on Evelyn Salt:

White Swan

When we first meet Evelyn Salt, she seems like a decent woman doing a service for her country. She is an expert CIA interrogator and very good at uncovering information. She is also married to a man who seems like a really nice guy and things are going great. At least, that is until a mysterious "defector" accuses her of being a Russian spy...

Black Swan

After being accused, Salt immediately goes on the run, and it turns out she isn't all we thought she was. While her capability to defend herself was not unclear beforehand, she shows how vicious she can be. It turns out she actually is a Russian spy, trained since birth to pass off perfectly as an American. She is part of a conspiracy to overthrow the American government, and shows her true colours when interacting with the Russians. However, they have not told us everything just yet.

Grey Swan

Turns out Salt's cover as an American was too good, so effective that she practically became one. Salt is still being chased by the Americans, but she's simultaneously working to sabotage the plan of the Russian agents. In doing so she is ruthless, and more than ready to kill them in brutal ways, but at the same time she does not do so without good reason. She's like the old western hero: torn constantly between two worlds and never really fitting into either one. She isn't truly good, but not truly evil. She's somewhere in between. Her only real goal: preventing World War III, is a neutral one not specifically aligned with either party, and she is ready to do everything in her power to achieve that end..

Thursday, 23 April 2015

So Fetch Friday: Star Wars Fans Anonymous

Things seem to be going good now. I had one last exam this week, and I've finished it. It was hard, and stressful, but I go through it. I just hope I did okay. Now I have one take-home exam which I'm handing in today and I'm done! I've also managed so far to stay off the IMDB boards, though I've still been using the website itself to get basic information on the films I discuss. Everybody was saying that I need to get out of those message boards, but then who's going to call out all the films that have an all-male cast when there is no reason for it? Maybe I need to start a new series on my blog, I can call it something like "Movies that Could Have Benefited from Greater Gender Diversity". That, or perhaps I could just make a post here if I encounter any more trailers like Black Sea or Alien Outpost. Then here I can comment on the lack of female characters and it can spark an intelligent discussion instead of everybody getting mad at me with the rare poster trying in vain to explain to them why I might actually have a point.

Maybe that would be a good idea for a blogathon: take a male-dominated or all-male film and make a case for how it could have worked with greater gender diversity. Then again, I seem to be the only one who gets bothered by these kinds of things. I mean everyone else talks about how great a movie Snowpiercer was. I seem to be the only one who says that it had some great action but could have used more female characters. I still find it hard to believe that these rebels who need all the help they can only got two women: one only joining in because her son was taken and the other only as a condition to get a man to co-operate. Really that seems to be the case with a lot of male-dominated films. You are after all talking to the only person in the blogging community who will criticize a film for not having female cops in the background of a single scene, not to mention the only person with the guts to even attempt to defend the planned all-female Ghostbusters reboot on the grounds of sexism in the original. Maybe I am crazy.

Speaking of films that are in desperate need of gender diversity, I never got a chance last week to share my thoughts on the new Star Wars trailer. I'll admit when I first heard they were rebooting Star Wars, I was debating with myself over whether I'd actually go to see these films. My first thoughts were mostly indifference. I left Star Wars behind a long time ago (which is weird, considering I've done at least three articles on those films). I used to be a huge Star Wars nerd back in Grade 6, and I'm talking extreme. I remember being super-hooked in the Knights of the Old Republic games.

Granted, that was also at one of the worst points in my life, when I was at a horrible school and nearly everyone hated me for one reason or another. I had next to no friends and I was bullied mercilessly for just about anything that people found out about me. I even used to get teased for liking Doctor Who (this was back when the revival was just starting with Christopher Eccleston, and the show hadn't firmly established itself in Canada yet). Looking back on it now, it's not hard to see how my obsession with Star Wars came about, since it offered an escape of sorts. It gave me a way out of my crappy life and allowed me to live in a world where I could be the hero and save the Galaxy. Then eventually I transferred to a far better school and the obsession gradually faded. Then for a while I was "enlightened" by the scientific realism of 2001: A Space Odyssey (finally realizing how blatantly George Lucas ignored basic science) and turned my back on Star Wars by becoming a Trekkie.

In any case I'd started to see my obsession with Star Wars as being like alcoholism. I thought of myself as being "on the wagon" for years, and I was afraid to go near anything even remotely Star Wars-related out of concern that I would relapse. Eventually I worked up the nerve to watch A New Hope Again and found I didn't hate it as much as I thought, though I won't call it a favorite or anything. I was pretty much in a position where it was just the movies: no prequels, no expanded universe. That's where I've been ever since. Naturally when I heard the news of episode 7 I was indifferent and unsure if I should take the time to see these new installments. I think my verdict was that I would wait until they came out and then see what the reviews were like. I'll admit I'm not the biggest J.J. Abrams fan. His take on Star Trek is alright. However, seeing this trailer actually did somewhat arouse my curiosity on a few levels. I do find myself wondering where exactly they intend to go with this new film.

This excitement has recently got me thinking about this idea I once had for a Star Wars fan fiction. The concept I had was that it was set somewhere just before the prequels and centered around an aging Jedi Master who is disgruntled with the order. Then there was an incident in which Yoda refuses to investigate the apparent rape of a teenage student who was already being pushed to her breaking point for no other reason than because she had midichlorians in her bloodstream. The whole thing would have essentially been a deconstruction of Star Wars, with this Jedi Master defecting and trying to get the unfortunate student to safety only to be relentlessly pursued by some very pissed off Jedi. Taking the deconstruction even further, there would also be a Sith apprentice who gets taken as a companion (eventually engaging in a lesbian romance with the student) and ultimately proves to be a far more noble person than any of the Jedi. In that sense it would flip things around, with the Jedi becoming the villains and the Sith becoming slightly more sympathetic.

There was one other component to the story, that did spark some controversy among some of the Star Wars fans I showed my outline to. The final act of the story would have involved a dark revelation about the Star Wars universe: the Force is actually a Lovecraftian abomination that feeds off the constant fighting between the Jedi and the Sith. I was even considering having it be established that Palpatine's real intentions were to basically starve the Force by wiping out both sides, and Luke went and started the New Jedi Order messing everything up.

As for the film itself, it does look like we'll be getting the original cast back in action. Luke provided some voice-over narration and we saw what looked like him handing a lightsaber to Leia (perhaps she finally becomes a Jedi?) Han Solo and Chewie are also returning. We also have a new group of characters, and from what has been shown this is the one area I can definitely give these movies credit. I've discussed this before. The Saga has an absurd male-female ratio. I mean there are so far six movies, with big budgets and huge casts, and only two major female characters, who aren't on-screen together for more than a few minutes. Even that doesn't really count considering one was a baby at the time and the other "lost the will to live" and then died somehow because her boyfriend turned out to be a genocidal maniac.

That whole thing was ridiculous in itself. I mean, Leia's line in Return of the Jedi was "She died when I was very young". That seems to imply that Leia would have been at least a toddler, old enough to even remember those "images" of her mother. The movie seems to claim that Leia remembers her mother because she saw her die moments after she was born which makes no sense. I could understand her having some psychological issues that might need to be addressed but would she really be suicidal after a bad breakup like that? You'd think she would at the very least want to think about what will happen to her children. Maybe it would have made more sense if she was involved with starting the Rebel Alliance and perhaps died during its early years, maybe in a heroic sacrifice. Perhaps now that George Lucas isn't running things anymore we should get someone to remake all three prequel films and try to fix all the absurd problems within them.

One thing I can definitely give the new films credit for is that it looks like they  are going to diversify the cast a bit more. There are some similar issues to gender with race in the original Saga as well. The only significant non-white character in the original trilogy was Lando Calrissian, who doesn't appear until fairly late into The Empire Strikes Back, where he is forced to double-cross Han before getting his redemption in the following film. In the prequels, there is Mace Windu, who is really more of a supporting role. The Force Awakens seems to feature a black protagonist (who may or may not be a stormtrooper) and several strong female characters. Daisy Ridley is apparently playing a tough girl, but there are a few others listed on IMDB whose roles have yet to be revealed, including Lupita Nyong'o of Twelve Years a Slave fame.

There is one theory I've had about one of those actresses, Gwendoline Christie. Her character's name has yet to be revealed, and she still has not yet appeared in the trailers... or has she? The villain (I presume this character is the villain or at least a villain) seems to have a fairly androgynous figure and is always shown with a mask. I find myself wondering if it could in fact be Brienne of Tarth under that mask and that armor. It could be interesting to see a female villain take the center stage this time around, and Gwendoline Christie certainly has the right kind of build for this character.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. brought out some peculiar developments this week. Skye has been reunited with her mother, which raises a few questions about how she survived being vivisected by Whitehall, who presumably consumed some part of her as well (specifically the secret to why she doesn't age). Apparently she did not actually die, and was pieced back together by psycho Dale Cooper. I presume somewhere in the future this will all make sense, but then there's this weird place where Skye has ended up. Everyone seems to maintain that it's good, but it feels a bit like when we visited Alexandria in The Walking Dead. I just couldn't shake off the feeling that something was not quite right. They seem okay compared to the actual villains, but I'm willing to consider the possibility that there is something they are not telling us. Also, it seems there is distrust in the ranks. May and Simmons seem a bit less certain where their allegiances lie, since Coulson seems to be up to something secret but they don't know what. On the other hand, it looks like Coulson will be in a position to save the world, which I guess is a good thing.

On Game of Thrones, the season is starting to get moving. Brienne is getting her act together and going after Sansa. While I won't deny that Sansa has a few reasons to be paranoid, she probably would be better off with Brienne. I know that Petyr Baelish isn't exactly trustworthy. He has stabbed half the show's cast in the back at least once, and knowing him taking Sansa is probably nothing more than a means to an end. Fortunately, Brienne is going after them and hopefully will rescue Sansa. Meanwhile Arya is busy tracking down that guy who helped her kill those other guys. She was led to the "house of black and white" where she was told he did not live, then found out that he was lying. I was a bit surprised by this development, since I understood she was trying to get to the wall, but the environment was pretty neat. It reminded me a bit of Venice, with the canals in place of streets. I wonder if that's where they borrowed some ideas from.

Daenerys is also busy struggling with some difficult decisions. Her desire to end slavery is noble but that is proving to be a lot harder than she anticipated. The former slave owners are doing everything in their power to reclaim their old property, but some of the former slaves are taking matters into their own hands as well. One unfortunate slave decided to take the law into his own hands and impart vigilante justice on one of the former slave owners, when Daenerys wanted to give him a fair trial. That slave was executed in public, to the uproar of many of her subjects. Also, Drogon is back, and he is all grown up. It looks like he might get pretty nasty, though he still seems to hold some affection towards Daenerys, so perhaps there is still some hope that she can control him.

Now let's check in with our good friend Dr. Hannibal Lector and see what he is up to. Will Graham has had to do some time because he has been framed for murdering Abigail Hobbs, though technically there's no real evidence that she was murdered. Her severed ear was found in Graham's sink, I don't recall any definitive confirmation that she was not alive when it was removed. Graham's delusions are causing a lot of trouble and he has had to reside in a psychiatric ward for a while, but he has started to figure out that Hannibal is not trustworthy. Then Beverly found enough evidence to convict Hannibal only to get murdered in the most gruesome fashion imaginable. Her body was literally sliced into several thin strips, with each one put on display in an observatory (amusingly, that observatory where all the bodies keep turning up is the David Dunlap Observatory in Toronto; I've actually done volunteer work there).  Beverly's death was brutal, and hard to deal with. I liked her, and I feel like I'm going to miss her.

On the bright side, my suspicions that Miriam Lass was not dead after all have been confirmed. Jack managed to find her trapped under a condemned building, minus an arm. Unfortunately, it also seems like Hannibal may have gotten into her head and scrambled her brain. After all, in addition to the (understandable) trauma of being abducted and held in a cellar for two years (along with having your arm removed, even if it was as painless as Miriam claimed), her kidnapper probably conditioned her to be unable to identify Hannibal as the real killer. We also lost Dr. Chilton, who was killed by Miriam when she thought he was the one responsible for abducting her. This is all very touching but I also can't quite shake off the fear that something is going to happen to Miriam. At least there is reason to be suspicious of Hannibal at this point, so hopefully they'll get him by the end of the season. Hannibal's psychologist also apparently believes Graham is innocent so... yay? Then again, if Silence of the Lambs was anything to go on Hannibal might not be any less of a threat in prison.

I've also got my short film Dead Inside entering production next week. This should be exciting. I'll confess that the filmmaking process can be a bit stressful, and I'm still trying to learn how to mange when you don't have complete control over everything. I wrote the script but my friend is directing, and he definitely knows what he is doing. I've seen some of his other work, this guy is really good. The hard part is dealing with changes to the script. I had a certain vision for it, but then he tells me he wants to change certain details and I'm not always 100% sure if he is making the right call. I end up at a crossroads. Part of me realizes he has a point, the other can't quite let go of my original concept. It's a tricky balance of emotions to work with, but perhaps experiences like this will be useful once I finally get funding for one of my features.

Still, the pre-production phase has gone along fairly well. We've got an official cast list together. I'm scheduled to make a cameo in one scene, and I also intend to help with the shoot whenever possible. I'll admit, this seems to be the hardest part of filmmaking for me, but understanding the process is important. After we're done shooting, the film will obviously have to enter the editing stage, and while there are no certain release dates yet we're hoping to have it finished some time in June. My director even has some plans already for distribution, so I think we have a chance at making something amazing.

You know, casting a movie is an interesting experience. It's an interesting mental exercise as a screenwriter to try and figure out which actors are the best fit for the characters you have written. It's not easy. I've got a few possible picks for some of them, like my screenplay adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness. My two choices for the leads are Kurt Russell and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (which is somewhat ironic considering that I otherwise went out of my way to keep the script from resembling The Thing). In the project I'm currently working on, it's been a bit easier, but even so these are suggestions at best, and there's no guarantee I could actually get these actors for the final movie. Some people that I've wondered about in this one include Jessica Chastain as the  protagonist, with Rosario Dawson, Aidan Quinn, and Amy Jo Johnson as police officers, Sam Neill in a supporting role, and Cillian Murphy as one of the villains. In the Line of Duty proved even harder to cast, especially one role for which I eventually settled on Gwendoline Christie. Has anyone here ever written a script and tried to cast it? I can't be the only screenwriter in the blogging community. If so, who would you want to cast in your film?

In the meantime, I need to find some movies to watch, and I desperately need to reduce my intake of action films. I'm thinking about taking it in steps, perhaps next week spending some of my free time watching some old film noir. I've got some in my drawer I still haven't seen yet. Perhaps I should do something with that. Maybe I should do a film noir week instead of my general non-action week. That could be interesting. I'm also wondering about doing something on directorial debuts. I've got a few on hand: I just re-watched John Carpenter's cult classic Dark Star on Wednesday, plus I have access to Kubrick's Fear and Desire, David Lynch's Eraserhead, and Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. I think it could be interesting to look at some iconic directors' first features and examine how it compares to their later films on a stylistic level; spotting early manifestations of their various trademarks.

I have also recently found myself wondering about possibly giving The Departed another go. I saw it like four years ago so perhaps I should give it another chance, or maybe I'll just end up feeling the same way I did then. What do you think? Do you think a film like this might be deserving of a second chance? One thing that I have realized recently is that The Departed actually might make a pretty good TV series. You could flesh out the story, and have each episode focus on a small group of characters at a time. Then there could be some episodes about the crooks, some about the cops, and perhaps some that focus on a few characters from both. That way there would be more room to develop everybody. Somebody get Martin Scorsese on the line, but make sure I'm on the writing team. That way I can work on diversifying the cast a bit more. I mean, all these characters and the only woman they could fit in was the love interest? I find that hard to believe. I think we'd need to add in some female cops and female crooks. Maybe if I'm feeling really crazy I'll even write Leonardo DiCaprio's character as a woman, which could bring out some interesting new dynamics.

Stuff From Other Bloggers

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Thursday Movie Picks Meme: Superhero Movies

This week, the theme for Wanderer's Thursday Movie Picks Meme is Superhero films, or films about superheroes. That's pretty self-explanatory. Generally superheroes are characters (often but not always originating from comics) who have extraordinary abilities and use them to fight crime. There are a lot of superhero films to choose from, especially now with the success of Marvel's superhero franchise and the various (so far unsuccessful) attempts by D.C. to compete with them. Now, I figure the Marvel films are too obvious, plus they're all in the same continuity, so I'm going to refrain from including any of those in today's list. Instead I am going to pick some less obvious choices for superhero films.

Tank Girl (1995)

Oh boy, talk about a weird but insanely entertaining film, if only just because of the bizarre directions it goes. I mean, this is a superhero film that even has a spontaneous musical number at one point. The title character is quite possibly the ultimate logical extreme of the "wise-guy" action hero. Say what you will about John McClane, but he at least understood the danger he was in. This girl seems to treat everything like it's a party, even when storming the enemy base. It also has a pre-Mulholland Drive- Naomi Watts as Tank Girl's best friend Jet Girl, and a psychotic Malcom McDowell delivering an over-the-top performance as the villain. It's campy, yes, but one you really should see, if only just because of how insane it can get at times.

Mystery Men (1999)

You wanted superheroes? Well, too bad! All we have are... these guys... and girl. Mystery Men is a film that shows another side to superheros, namely the rejects. This 1999 superhero parody involves a group of superheros who all have the most seemingly useless powers imaginable such as hitting people with a shovel, throwing forks, getting angry, being "mysterious", and being able to turn invisible but only if no one else is looking. They're not so much superheroes as they are superhero wannabes that are not really all that good at fighting crime... except of course they ultimately turn out to be far greater heroes than the one "superhero" who actually gets anything done in this world.

Dredd (2012)

Okay, whether Dredd himself is a superhero is somewhat debatable, but after the disastrous 1995 attempt to film the cult comic book character of Judge Dredd with Sylvestor Stallone in the title role, this attempt makes him work. It's a curious combination of several action movie trends with elements of urban vigilantism, hardbodied action heroes, the buddy cop film, Hong Kong action cinema, and the "Die Hard on an X" formula. There are also some similarities to The Raid but that's total coincidence (they both came out around the same time), and at least this one has two strong female leads, including a female villain which is an unusual touch for a superhero film. It's definitely a great experience and worth the watch.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

And Now Their Watch is Ended

Last week I finally got a chance to get back in the action of the Thursday Movie Picks Meme hosted by my friend Wanderer. This time around, the theme was police movies, and she had a lot of people contributing, myself included. When I was reading the other submissions, I quickly started to notice a few patterns. There were some films that seemed to be especially popular and kept showing up on various lists. Perhaps the most popular was The Departed (seriously, why am I the only one who didn't get the appeal of that film?). Hot Fuzz also proved to be an extremely popular choice as it kept popping up in several of the submissions, my own included. The other one I noticed seemed to be popular was one I'd never heard of: End of Watch. Everybody else seemed to like it and it just so happened that it was on Netflix, so I thought I'd give it a watch and see if it was any good.

End of Watch is certainly an unusual cop film, but in a way I found that actually worked to its advantage. The basic setup is pretty straight forward: there are two cops, Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) who are paired together and much of the film is about their friendship. In that sense, it's like a typical buddy cop movie, only in this case a bit less linear. The typical structure of a buddy cop film goes something like this: two characters, usually men though exceptions like The Heat (two women) and Dredd (a man and a woman) exist, are unwillingly paired together by a stubborn chief.

These two buddy cops are polar opposites, usually one being the "wild" cop who doesn't play by the rules and the other being the uptight by the book officer. They can't stand each other at first but over the course of the film they have to work together to solve a crime leading to the gradual development of a mutual respect for each other and eventually a close friendship. Also, in many cases (exceptions like Dredd notwithstanding), the dynamic between the buddy cops replaces the role that might usually be filled by a love interest, meaning that from some angles buddy cop films can be read as homoerotic. Hot Fuzz had a lot of fun exaggerating that last part.

End of Watch isn't quite so simple in its structure. The two buddy cops are great characters but not always so easily distinguished. You don't have a clearly identified "wild" cop or "by the book" cop. You just have two cops who have their own strengths, weaknesses, personalities, and anxieties. That's also really what a lot of the film is about, just how these two guys interact. They don't bond together as find themselves working together to overthrow some drug kingpin. They just become closely aquainted because they have to spend so much time together. If anything, though, the relationship is not exclusive to these two, even if they are the main focus. Really, it's about a sense of camaraderie among the police force in general.

That's another thing that made this film interesting to see. End of Watch shows a whole other side of police work that you don't often see in other films. Hot Fuzz liked to emphasize the paperwork, but still put a lot of focus on the action. End of Watch hardly skips out on the action either, but those moments are spaced out and the focus is instead on the dull side of being a cop. A lot of being an officer is basically sitting around waiting for something to do, and it's not always going to be exciting. It's hardly that unusual for cops to receive prank calls, just look at the absurdly popular practice of "swatting", which is literally based around dorks prank calling 911 so that some YouTuber gets attacked by SWAT officers live on camera. Sometimes they're false alarms or strange cases that leave you wondering what the people involved were thinking (that one woman who reported her kids being "missing" when they were bound in duct tape in the closet certainly raised a few questions), and sometimes they're just so messed up that even the cops can't take it.

This is the side we see in End of Watch. There is a sub-plot involving a group of criminals, but ultimately it's really about the day-to-day life of being a cop. Brian and Mike sit in their car waiting for some report to come in, then respond. Often they have to rely on other cops as well, and frequently get help from fellow officers Orozco (America Ferrara) and Davis (Cody Horn). In one instance they even get into trouble because they accidentally interfered with another group of cops trying to take down a drug cartel. If there is a lesson to be gained from this film, it's that cops are human beings just like everyone else.

Honestly, I thought it was interesting to see this side of being a cop, instead of the more action-packed angle movies often take. These aren't the kinds of guys who will point a 44 magnum at your head and ask if you feel lucky, or who will fire their guns up in the air while screaming "ah". They're ordinary people given a specific responsibility and who often have to make difficult decisions and then deal with the consequences. It's often a boring job and they try to make the best of it, all while trying to accommodate their personal relationships. Jake Gyllenhaal makes for a very good lead in a film like this. In any other film he might have been the tough grizzled veteran but here he is shown to be far more human.

The rest of the cast is also very good as well. Ferarra and Davis might not have as much screen time compared to the two leads, but when they do show up they are a welcome addition. They seem to make quite a pair themselves, and I find myself with the sense that they are probably going through very much the same sorts of situations that Gyllenhaal and Peña are experiencing throughout. There is also Gyllenhall's girlfriend Janet, who for a love interest actually has a fair bit of depth, and Peña's equally interesting wife Gabby.

Adding to the non-conventional elements is the semi-documentary style that drives much of the film. It offers practically a first-person look into the life of a cop, and does actually manage to add a sense of realism (even if it can at times be disorienting).  End of Watch is a very interesting experience and one that I think is worth recommending. As a police procedural, it offers something very unusual, and the kind of side to being a cop that you don't see in a movie like Dirty Harry or S.W.A.T.. The action is there and it is intense, but ultimately it's all about how being a police officer can be as boring as any other job. It's not all about stopping the crooks, it's also about making those tough calls and knowing when to act.

Friday, 17 April 2015

The Five Senses Blogathon

Well, I'm still anxiously waiting for participants in my new blogathon so while I'm waiting it makes sense to perhaps start trying to take part in others, especially now that I have a bit more free time. There is one in particular that I've been seeing a lot of people taking part in, the Five Senses Blogathon hosted by Nostra at My Filmviews. I've worked with Nostra before, back when I took part in the Six Degrees of Separation Blogathon where I was given the difficult task of connecting Lindsay Lohan to Sydney Poitier. Now there's a new activity to take part in.

The idea behind the Five Senses blogathon is pretty self-explanatory. It's based on the idea that the human body has five senses ( though technically, this isn't actually true, as the body has a large array of other senses in addition to these main five). The idea is to find some sort of film-related association to each of those five senses. To keep things simple, and sticking to Nostra's original concept, I'll only be focusing on the main five senses rather than bringing in any of the others that have been identified by scientists. So, here are the five senses in film.

Sound- A Man Escaped (1956)

There are a few directors who have proven to be very talented in handling sound. The films of Sergio Leone are great examples, but one of the best demonstrations of sound being used to its full effect is Robert Bresson's 1956 war drama A Man Escaped. The story itself is pretty simple: a member of the French Resistance is arrested and taken to a Nazi prison, where he carefully and systematically devises an escape plan. What brings out the real tension is the film's use of sound and how it contributes to the restricted narration of the story. The entire film is shown from the perspective of this one man: Lt. Fontaine (we never learn anything before he does). Because of this, sound is often the only indication, both for Fontaine and the viewer, of what is going on elsewhere in the prison.

Smell- The Thing (1982)

Odors are not something commonly associated with film in general, unless you want to bring up the short-lived attempt to attract viewers to the cinema with Smell-O-Vision in the post-World War II era (which is basically what the name implies: watching a film while the appropriate odors are simulated; it didn't really catch on). However, there are some movies that have conveyed odors to impressive effect, and one that stands out in my mind is John Carpenter's The Thing. In particular, there is one scene that I would say communicates a sense of smell perfectly, and that is a scene near the beginning. 

MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Copper (Richard Dysart) have just returned from investigating the currently-unexplained destruction of a nearby Norwegian research station, and with them they have brought a peculiar specimen. This specimen, wrapped in a blanket, is unraveled in front of all twelve of the main characters, and the first thing that is clear is the foul odor excreted from the seemingly dead creature. Just the simple panoramic shot of each of the men's reactions is enough to show how badly this monster stinks, and yet in a matter of hours the stench of rotting alien flesh will become the least of their worries.

Touch- Muscular Sympathy/Muscular Repulsion

This one is going to require some background information, as it was a concept I learned from one of my classes. However, it seems relevant here as it is based entirely around the viewer experiencing a certain body feeling. The ideas of muscular sympathy and its twin muscular repulsion, which I have discussed in more detail in my articles Muscles and Macho Men and its follow-up Torture and Terrified Women, are fairly simple. It basically amounts to the viewer experiencing a bodily response that makes them feel as though they are part of the action. Muscular sympathy is often associated with action cinema, particularly martial arts films. When watching someone like Bruce Lee beat up his enemies in Enter the Dragon, it excites the viewer and makes them feel like they are right there with him. Muscular repulsion (as I have found myself naming it) is a similar idea, only more commonly found in horror as the viewer feels part of the action in a different way. Instead of feeling as though they are fighting with Bruce Lee, they feel more like they are the ones on the receiving end of his attacks. More appropriately, the viewer feels like they are the ones experiencing violent dismemberment of their own bodies.

Taste- Pulp Fiction (1994)

This is a hard area to cover, but there is one very specific scene that comes to mind when thinking about food on film: the famous burger scene from Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. I can think of plenty of movies that feature food, but not very many with a moment quite as memorable as this. Considering it was from a fast food chain that burger probably wasn't even that good, but Samuel L. Jackson taking it out of the hands of a man he is about to kill and declaring it "a tasty burger" somehow makes him a far more intimidating figure. He then goes and drink's the guy's entire soda. If there is any moment in a film where taste is important, it's here.

Sight- The Spectacle of the Human Body

This is an interesting topic in of itself. One could write an entire essay on the history of how films have made a spectacle of people with muscular forms, and I did precisely that with my article Muscles and Macho Men. This particular concept has a long history going back as far as Edison's Kinetoscope film Sandow the Strongman (and it goes back even further than that, having its roots in the strongman acts of 19th-century circus shows), and yet the same basic principle still applies to something as recent as the Twilight films. The idea of a film trying to impress the viewer by putting a muscular body on display (usually male, examples of this being done with women only really started to become more common in the 1990's) was arguably made famous by 1980's action stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact a major defining feature of the hardbodied heroes of that era like Schwarzenegger and Stallone was that their films would contrive situations to remove their clothes and thus show off their muscles. Predator is arguably one of the most extreme examples, seeing as it does this to nearly the entire cast (including an early female example with Anna). However, as shown with films like the figure seen in Sandow the Strongman (who was at the time a world-renowned bodybuilder) and Taylor Lautner in the Twilight saga, it is hardly confined to action movies.

As popular as they may be, musclemen are not the only ways in which the body can be used as a spectacle. The horror genre also has its own way of doing it, as I discussed in my (somewhat ironically-named) article Torture and Terrified Women. Instead of contriving situations to show off a muscular form, many horror movies like to take great pride in making a spectacle of the body's dismemberment, destruction, or distortion. Other films seem to like to make a spectacle of showing people naked, Eyes Wide Shut being a very good example of that practice in action. 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

So Fetch Friday: Revenge of the IMDB Trolls

Well, I'm almost done with my exams now. It's been a bit rough but I think I'm making some decent progress on my take-home exam, which just leaves the one that I have on Wednesday. I'm doing what I can for it and hopefully it will be enough. We'll see what happens. Otherwise, I've mostly been watching action films this week in the spare time that I've had. No surprise there. My insane addiction to action cinema is the main reason why I've tried to run an event in which I'd try to watch anything but action films. It's not that there's anything wrong with action movies, it's just that I seem to be watching far too many of them. Speaking of action films, there were a couple of new ones that I saw.

I did something that with hindsight may have been a bit stupid. I was browsing Netflix and found of all things that Battleship was available. I had pretty low expectations. When I first heard they were making a film out of a board game on the IMDB message boards, I tried to stay optimistic but in the end I quickly realized how silly this was going to get. When I found it on Netflix I thought I'd perhaps try watching it and see if it was really as bad as I had been lead to think. Apparently "better than Rambo: First Blood Part II" was too high a standard for this one. I couldn't get through more than half an hour in, and during that time I kept asking myself why I was watching this thing. I guess I'd hoped it would at least be entertainingly bad, but it wasn't even that. I suppose if you can make some robot friends out of your Blu-ray player who can help you riff the movie you might stand a chance, but otherwise it's not worth your time.

I mean, this is a movie that literally begins with the main character breaking into a convenience store to steal a single chicken burrito for some girl he just met at a bar in the middle of the night. This guy does such a horrendous job of it that he ends up being chased by the cops and tasered for all his trouble, and from what I saw this was also supposed to be the main character... you know, the guy we're supposed to relate to and be rooting for. The most insane part is that this whole affair somehow manages to win him the girl's hand in marriage. What kind of sane person would want to get romantically involved with someone who was so obsessed with having sex that they would go to ridiculous lengths to steal a chicken burrito? Yes, she said she wanted one, and that particular bar couldn't accommodate her, but there probably were other ways she could have obtained one legally on her own. Also, this is actually the first ten minutes of a movie called Battleship, and there was not so much as a single boat anywhere to be seen.

I also finally saw Faster, but I'm not sure it was really all that good a film. I won't say it was awful. It was definitely better than Battleship, and it did have some good ideas. The story worked enough to keep me going but ultimately I felt like it didn't really work to its full potential. For one thing, I'm not entirely convinced that the stylistic choice of keeping the central cast unnamed was the best choice. I think I can sort of see why they might have done that with The Rock's character, but the three central characters that we're supposed to be concerned with are literally named "Driver", "Killer", and "Cop".

Also, even more annoyingly, a lot of the best characters were in the supporting cast and not given much focus. Cicero was alright for the most part, at least until the end when she suddenly figures out her partner is corrupt and suppresses evidence against him for absolutely no good reason. Then there was also Lily, who seemed really promising with the whole sub-plot about "Killer" (seriously, give him a name) turning her into an action girl and more than just a criminal's attractive girlfiend. It looked like it had potential to go in some interesting directions but nothing ever comes of it. I guess I'll give credit that I didn't see the twist at the end coming, but it was also fairly obvious that "Cop" was going to die when he kept rambling about how he was going to retire in a few days.

One pleasant surprise I did experience, though, was The Big Year. In theory, this looks like it should be a disaster waiting to happen, especially when you put together Jack Black and Owen Wilson. Funnily enough, it actually kinda worked in ways I wouldn't have expected. Even Jack Black was okay, and Steve Martin was a nice touch. I also liked the love interest, a bird-obsessed girl who could do perfect imitations of various bird calls. Actually, being quite fond of birds myself, I could relate to The Big Year. I don't think I'd go to quite the extremes that these people do but I do like seeing the birds. I get excited just seeing a gold finch or sparrow in the front yard. There were some beautiful birds shown here, quite the variety.

Also, the idiots from IMDB are back! It looks like they're not even trying anymore. This one user by the name of benman46 posted this in response to my thread on Black Sea"Is this a serious question? That is the most laughingly stupid comment I've read for some time." Oh yeah, because how dare I call out a film on having an all-male cast when there was no reason for it and then use that as an example to encourage better representations of women from other filmmakers. Also, there seems to have been a brief discussion going on in the same thread by a couple other users that shows just how backwards-thinking some viewers are:

central_p: On a boat with 12 men who are killing each other, the primary role of a female would be to be gang raped! Great thinking!
joekiddlouischama: Actually, that prospect could have added suspense. Likewise, maybe have two of the men competing for the woman ...
Tuosma: Cheap suspense.

Why is it so difficult for people to grasp the simple fact that the presence of a female character in a film does not mean that a love story automatically has to be present? It seems just about everyone who has replied to my comment seems to be under the ridiculous assumption that a female lead in this film would have to be a love interest, and there's no reason for that to be the case. Why couldn't there be a female lead who is doing just as much back-stabbing or double-crossing as the men? There doesn't have to be a romance. There doesn't even have to be any sexual component at all. Why is that such a difficult idea to understand.

Of course it gets worse, because this guy benman46 also posted in response to me calling out a blatant mock thread: "Serves you right for making such ludicrous statements yourself." Why is it so hard for people to grasp the significance of questioning these things? They keep talking about how there are "plenty" of movies with "women in them", and every time that comes up I can't help but think "which movies are you talking about?" These people can't seem to wrap their mind around the fact that these gender inequalities in film are very real and need to be addressed. It's absurd, and the obvious solution is to stop making these posts but I also think it's necessary to raise these points. It's important to call out these films for their poor casting choices to draw attention to inequalities.

That's not even getting into the people who like to accuse me of "interfering with the artist's vision" or who try to justify these movies' choices by making easily debunked arguments claiming that men are physically stronger than women. Then of course there's also the people who have identified me as a "Feminazi", because as we all know from history the Nazis were extremely supportive of feminism. That's why there were so many high-ranking female Nazi officers like... yeah, no. The comparison really doesn't work.

I haven't had much time for my usual shows, but there is one good thing that happened: Game of Thrones is back! Finally we get to learn what happens next in this exciting saga... sort of. The first episode was mostly just picking up where everyone left off. Naturally, they decided to put the two most popular characters on the show (Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen) together, and I suspect their alliance will be interesting to see in action. Brienne of Tarth seems a bit lost right now, since she can't seem to swear loyalty to someone without them getting unexpectedly killed off. Now she's stuck with Podrick in the middle of nowhere with no idea of what she is supposed to be doing.

I'm curious about what's going to happen with Arya. Last we saw she was on a boat heading for the wall, so does that mean she's going to be reunited with Jon Snow? By this point he's pretty much the only family she has left (well, there is still Bran, but he's kinda out of reach of anybody at this point; and she just missed being reunited with Sansa). Meanwhile up at the wall, Stannis has declared himself the new "King of the North", and he also tried to have Mance burned alive. Not a pleasant fate for Mance, but it almost seemed like the smart option would have been to surrender to Stannis and avoid risking the genocide of his people.

I'm not sure what this means for the other Wildlings, but it looks like Jon Snow's not entirely ready to accept Stannis as his new king. To be fair, It's not hard to see why. From what we've seen so far, Stannis's reign would probably only be slightly better than Joffrey's. It would be better in the sense that Stannis would actually have some idea of what he's doing and the responsibilities of being a king instead of simply abusing his power for his own pleasure. He'd also have to earn his position instead of simply inheriting it by circumstance. On the other hand, knowing Stannis he would probably be a tyrant in many ways, even if he technically has a legitimate claim to the Throne. Really, Daenerys is the only one actually qualified to rule a kingdom on the grounds that she is the one person who actually gives a crap about the well-being of her subjects and is able to think in terms of what is best for them over her own desires. There's a good question for you to think about. If you lived in Westeros, who would you want to sit on the Iron Throne? Who do you think is the person best fit to rule a kingdom like this?

On the bright side, I seem to be getting back into shape. I've found a few more topics to discuss in the past few days and I finally managed to finish that article I started about what makes a strong female lead. It's been extremely well-received too, which is good. Now I just need to start figuring out what I'm going to do for all the blogathons I've encountered. There's so many I'm not sure where to begin, and of course I'm still waiting for entries to my own. I've invited a number of people already and several have expressed interest so it should only be a matter of time before I get my first entry, or at least the first entry besides my own.

Stuff From Other Bloggers

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Announcing Non-Action Week: YOU Pick the Movies

I need some help. For the past few months, since roughly December I've been struggling with an addiction to action films. Sometimes I seem to be watching action movies almost exclusively, and I need to break away from them. Unfortunately, right now it might be a bit too stressful due to my exams, but I can begin as soon as they're over, starting on May 4 and going on until May 8. You remember back when I did Free Action Movie Week? The idea was that I'd obtained a bunch of free action films and I had people vote on what films they wanted to see me review over the course of a week.

Well, that was such a success that I started thinking about revisiting the same sort of ground during the summer. I went through a few ideas, including one where people would vote on films from the preliminary list I made for the Blindspot Challenge that didn't make the final list. Unfortunately, most of the films on the preliminary list that I have access to I have seen since then, including 12 Years a Slave, Blue is the Warmest ColourDjango Unchained, and White Christmas (two of them I've also reviewed). Some of the preliminary list are still available here, but there isn't much left to vote on out of the ones I know with 100% certainty I can access before I plan to begin.

Instead, I've decided to broaden the spectrum a bit. I've got a serious addiction to action films and I need to break off and do something different. I'm having trouble breaking it off on my own, and while the severity of this addiction has varied, it has at times made it harder to watch or appreciate other genres. For this reason, I need to find something different, and as soon as exams are done, I hope to do precisely that. There is another problem, though, and this is where you come in. A major flaw in my character is my tendency to be extremely indecisive, especially in situations like this with regards to what films I want to watch. I figure the best approach is to take the element of choice right out.

So here's the deal: I have compiled a list of 10 films (semi-randomly selected) that I have in my drawer but have not yet gotten around to seeing (or in some cases, have only seen part of due to my mood at the time). All of these are films that don't seem like they could be considered "action" (though some could be considered precursors to the modern action film). This list covers a wide variety of different genres including romance, adventure, musical, comedy, and crime; as well as spanning several decades, going as early as the 1930's There's even a mix of different nationalities, including Canadian, American, and German cinema. What I would like you to do is to post in the comments below your top five choices out of my list. How you order your list is up to you, but I want your five favorites from the choices I have.

Once I get through with my remaining exams, I will tally up the votes and select the five most popular titles to watch between May 4 and May 8. Each day, I'll watch one of the movies and review it here on my blog, starting with the least popular on Monday and working my way up to that one really popular one that everyone wants me to see. It should be a great activity and one that will allow me to push the boundaries of my comfort zone in terms of movie watching. All I need you to do is tell me which of these films you want to me to watch.